Ash Wednesday: Harden Not Your Heart

BY SR. NORMA PIMENTEL, M.J. | March 2, 2022
Ash Wednesday – Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español

Recently I came across a woman I often see sitting on the side of the street, huddled up, wrapped in a shawl that somewhat protected her from the cold weather. She looked as if she was in another world as people passed her coming and going. Nobody seemed to notice her. She needed someone to stop and say, “Hello. How can I help you?”

I asked myself some of the same questions we may all have. What happened to her? How did she come to be homeless? Does she have family? This woman, and thousands more who are homeless, are a part of the harsh reality of life that we seem to look away from and ignore. Basically, taking no action. 

Ash Wednesday: Harden Not Your Heart

While I am uplifted by the people with kind and generous hearts who reach out to others, I also encounter moments of great frustration when I see people like this unfortunate woman and many like her who go unnoticed and invisible. Their lives have unraveled beyond control, and it frustrates me to find it beyond my control to help them all. However, it was grace that day to know that a smile, a short talk, and a meal uplifted her in that moment. 

At times, too, we find ourselves uncomfortable, frustrated in all that may be going on in our lives and in the world. Our life may feel in disarray as if one thing after another seems to be falling apart. But it may be in these moments of frustration that we can take a step back and listen to the Holy Spirit. Maybe our attempts to focus too much on our own lives could be blinding us from letting the Holy Spirit guide us instead of blocking God—we need to learn to rely upon him. 

As we embark on our Lenten journey, we must be attentive to the grace of offering ourselves in humility. We must let go and hand our lives over to God who inspires the goodness that we do. Our positive actions are an outcome of the Holy Spirit guiding. We must also be sure to proceed with the purity of intention. “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, (Mt 6:1-6).”

When we permit ourselves to do this, we allow ourselves to be truly guided by God and focus on the good that God is doing in our lives and the lives of others. Don’t let the frustration in your life prevent you from embracing the sacredness of God’s presence all around you. 

During your Lenten journey, do not be afraid of the messiness of life in and around us. I invite you to reach out to others, people you ordinarily might never reach out to—a man or woman experiencing homelessness, an immigrant, or someone close to you who you have failed to see or get close to. A smile will let them know you actually see them and that they are not invisible. Getting close enough to care and encounter them will let them know God loves both of you.

For Reflection:

  • In this Lenten journey, who is out there that God is wanting you to encounter? How will you respond?
  • How does encounter and care for our neighbor play an essential role in our work for justice?
  • How can you grow in humility and grace in this Lenten season?
24 replies
  1. Isabel Garrett
    Isabel Garrett says:

    I don’t need to go far.I need to be more patient and kind to my sister but it is not easy.So I’m praying for the gift of patience.

    • Peter Uncles
      Peter Uncles says:

      Me too especially blowing up at her the other day. She (69 years old) has been a thorn in my side and my family’s for many years with her addictions and personality disorder.

    • Vicky
      Vicky says:

      I have encountered some difficult women at different points in my life. Now that I am a little older, I thank God for each one. They helped me to examine my faith and to become more authentic in my relationships.

  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    Currently I am assisting a Syrian refugee family to learn English as they fear they will not be able to communicate with their children who are now entering secondary education.

  3. Eileen gambeski
    Eileen gambeski says:

    I am trying to listen to my son in laws anger towards my daughter after her recent suicide atttempt
    I want to support and love them during this difficult time.He is resistent to any communication by me
    I am trying to be there if he reaches out and resist contacting him
    It is hard

  4. Dawn Loughborough
    Dawn Loughborough says:

    My younger brother has had a break with our family lashing out at all of us. This winter he left the country to go to Romania. We do not hear from him. He is sick and I worry.

  5. Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    I think that humility surrounds us when I surrender myself to God and recognize the God in others. Each day I have the opportunity to see God in the people I meet and interact with. His presence as we look at the beauty of God in the other gives me the grace to want to know and see Him more in others. It is the ordinary, everyday person that chooses to honor God in many different ways that is the glory of being part of the kingdom of God. I think the humility that Sister expresses by giving over the world in which we live to the Holy Spirit and dealing with the ‘messiness’ that happens.

  6. Annmary Andrews pbvm
    Annmary Andrews pbvm says:

    Thank you for the communication. I have been able to look at my life and see how I can reach out to the most needy in my area.

  7. Buffy
    Buffy says:

    I am going through both of my sons having addiction issues. I feel like one is slowly killing himself with alcohol. He had a seizure for the first time when he didn’t drink for a couple days. He needs detox and rehab. I don’t have much hope in either kid, who are now adults, getting out of this. They followed in their father’s footsteps. I left him over 21 years ago and he died alcohol 6 years later. We have all been traumatized. Part of me wants to runaway again. My kids have made their choices not to get help and at least try. Their dad was a nurse. He would never get help either. I’m frustrated, tired, and sad.

    • Toni Nelson
      Toni Nelson says:

      Hi Buffy – I am so sorry you are dealing with the debilitating effects of the family disease of alcoholism. Please look for Alanon Family Groups in your area. They can help you learn to detach with love and help your family members by helping yourself. There is help and much hope. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Elaine
      Elaine says:

      Buffy, you and your family will be/are a part of my family prayers this Ash Wednesday. A short prayer I recently came across from a reflection of St. Faustina, Divine Mercy and that you might like to pray over and over is: “Oh pure virgin pour courage into my heart and guard it.” “She” will be with you and help you for sure. As the mother of Our Lord she hears and knows your need. Be assured of my prayers for you. Blessings to you and your family.

    • David
      David says:

      Please try Al Anon. Their program both helps keep me sane and nourishes my spirit beyond what I could imagine.

    • Deborah Pope Finamore
      Deborah Pope Finamore says:

      I so agree, Alanon should help YOU deal with the Alcoholic people in your life, but mostly help you deal with your feelings of anger etc.
      Too bad no one ( or maybe they did) recommend when your husband’s drinking became alcoholic in nature.
      As a recovering alcoholic for 35 years, my family was able to learn about alcoholism, they were 2 & 5.
      They grew up knowing my AA friends…
      My husband is a heavy drinker, I need to follow the principles of AA and Alanon too!
      Wishing you peace and loving detachment for your happiness.

  8. Marilyn
    Marilyn says:

    After listening to our President’s State of the Union address last night, it struck me as to how he “let go” of many of the issues we have been through as a nation. Instead, he focused on how we can look forward to better things for our country while we do what we can to help a world neighbor in war and in peril. “Harden not your hearts” is such a timely phrase to carry with us at this time. May this Lent teach us how to be humble and supportive of those in need, putting aside our petty differences that fester in our hearts. There are so many more important things to deal with in our lives and our world. It’s not all about us.

  9. Toni Nelson
    Toni Nelson says:

    Thank you for today’s reflection. I see this not so much as a call to action as a call to be present – to simply be in the moment, aware of what, and who is around me and responding to the still, small voice that so often compels me to respond — if I’ll only listen. I ask for grace and guidance as I continue my journey toward becoming the human being, not just the “ human doing” I am intended to be.

  10. June Iwanicka
    June Iwanicka says:

    It is my hope and my prayer that I can be open to whomever crosses my path as I journey through my day to be welcoming, friendly, offer a smile and a bit of my time .. whether in my neighborhood, at the store, in my home,…that I can bring them a bit of joy, a bit of hope, and a bit of peace,..
    It is my prayer that I can overcome whatever my problems,, emotions, health, or pressures are at the moment and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit with an offering of love and hospitality to those who the Spirit puts on my daily path

  11. Vicky
    Vicky says:

    Courage is what I pray for… to be a living example of faith for my family…not pious not moralistic not judgmental

  12. Karen Moscato
    Karen Moscato says:

    I just contributed today to Ukraine. This war has had me weeping daily for the people caught up in this conflict. My prayer fasting and alms giving this Lent is for peace first in Ukraine and then peace among Americans no matter party gender or color.

  13. Cathy Shipp
    Cathy Shipp says:

    My father-in-law recently transitioned to memory care. During my daily visits I am bombarded by the cacophony of confused voices. Some are joyful greetings to a new face coming through the door, some are cries for help or understanding, some are angry shouts at demons only they can see. As much as I can I meet each with a smile and a greeting (by name if I know it) as I make my way to my father-in-law. Such is life with dementia.

  14. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Patience, tolerance, inner strength – often in short supply. There is ample room in us for those priceless ingredients.

  15. Ann Marie Manning
    Ann Marie Manning says:

    The situation in Ukraine is constantly on my mind and in my heart. I am praying for a way to be present and do something proactive .
    That is my Lenten prayer Gods will be done . I am here , Lord.

  16. Claire
    Claire says:

    Sometimes it is almost impossible to ““Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them”. I only see people when I’m going about doing my shopping in a very public space. I hope it is sufficient that when I do this that the other people around really don’t know me by name or sight. Many of us do volunteering in a group setting so, of course, the other volunteers all know each other; again I have to presume that we are not impressing each other so that is not what it is about. What is frustrating is that as I retire I have a group of friends who are looking to fill time and I want to encourage them to consider these opportunities; they already know that I fill some of my time doing this so I am not impressing them – often the opposite, letting them know that it fills a need in me. This directive sometimes gives me trouble.


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